"If you love what you do, you'll never work another day in your life."
Yeah, so, uhhh... the lie detector determined THAT WAS A LIE.
I mean, seriously. Who came up with that quote?
Oh, sorry Mark Twain. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, here. A long-time slogan of the Peace Corps is that it's "The hardest job you'll ever love!" and I'm inclined to agree, wholeheartedly.
For the past few months I have been envisioning to bring Grassroot Soccer (aka Fútbol Para La Vida) to my community. Back in December, I proposed the idea about leading workshops with our community-facing team members (TAPS) before rolling out the program to teens in Paján. I was fresh off the high of our Re:Connect conference, and presenting my project ideas to my fellow volunteers and vision for my service to the Peace Corps staff alongside my counterpart from the Ministry of Public Health had me excited to hit the ground running.
Thankfully, I have learned the art of giving good presentations... just now I've got to do it all in Spanish!
Implementing a completely new program to engage youth in conversations about sexuality, sexual health, and HIV/AIDS awareness required me to dig into the change management toolbox from my project management life. After assessing the goal, I knew that success would require me putting in a lot of front-end development, planning, and most importantly... patience.
In change management, it is all about identifying and engaging key stakeholders in order to maintain momentum and build support for a project that will bring about a shift in culture or work strategy to a team. As a Community Health volunteer, this has meant actively building relationships with my co-workers at the hospital, developing a planning & execution schedule and giving weekly updates to leaders, consistently asking for feedback and insight from those I'd be training, and overcoming my own insecurities -- in this case, my command of Spanish & my overall knowledge of the subject matter.
Kickoff workshop with the Community Health Promoters from my Cantón! #Goal1
Those insecurities mixed with other logistics (e.g. school calendar, personnel changes, resource availability, etc.) and the time it took to establish trust with my colleagues meant that the stage we call "front-end development" took longer than I expected, but I finally set the start date for June 13th. I focused on my plans, gathered materials, practiced my Spanish presentation skills, and helped build excitement with the support of my counterparts ahead of Wednesday's Main Event.
There were times leading up to The Big Day that I wanted to cancel everything and hide in a corner... even that same morning. Fear is quite a beast, and historically, my insecurities can freeze me. But I pushed through this time, fueled by my desire to see lasting change occur in my site and to use my own strengths to empower others; driven by the commitment I made to Ecuador and the prayers I made about wanting to give the best of myself to helping others succeed in transformative ways. What transpired was a kick-off training session that exceeded expectations -- most notably, my own.
I can be quite hard on myself, but this was the first time since coming to Ecuador that I really believe that not only did I do my best, but worked my hardest and enjoyed every minute seeing it pay off for my team.
And you know what?
I'm going to do it again, not in spite of love, but because of it.
We had our first session with students in Cascol, Paján on July 3rd! We signed our "contract", committing to respect one another, and to have fun! A special thanks to my co-workers Carlos & Liseth who put our training to practice as we talked with our adolescents club about the importance of getting tested for HIV.